Minister Dawson to the Secretary of State.
Santo Domingo, January 2, 1905.
Sir: I have the honor to confirm your telegram, as follows:
Washington, December 30, 1904.
Dawson, Minister, Santo Domingo:
Confidential. You will sound the President of Santo Domingo, discreetly but earnestly and in a perfectly friendly spirit, touching the disquieting situation which is developing owing to the pressure of other governments having arbitral awards in their favor and who regard our award as conflicting with their rights. Already one European Government strongly intimates that it may resort to occupation of some Dominican customs ports to secure its own payment. There appears to be a concert among them. You will ascertain whether the Government of Santo Domingo would be disposed to request the United States to take charge of the collection of duties and effect an equitable distribution of the assigned quotas among the Dominican Government and the several claimants. We have grounds to think that such arrangement would satisfy the other powers, besides serving as a practical guaranty of the peace of Santo Domingo from external influence or internal disturbance.
and to say that I immediately called upon President Morales.
We entered upon a full and friendly discussion of the international relations and internal politics of this country as affected by its financial obligations, in the course of which I did not disguise from him my conviction that the European creditors would wait no longer for their money. He frankly answered that such was his own conviction and that he was daily expecting a European demand, backed by a war vessel, and a demand from me for the four northern ports under the Improvement award. He clearly realizes that the European creditors will accept no guaranty he can offer, and each would insist on having the full annual amount provided for its own protocol, leaving him nothing, or next to nothing, to run the administration. He said that personally he had long been of the opinion that the best solution was for the United States to take charge of the collection of the revenues, guaranteeing to the Dominican Government enough to live on and arranging with the creditors.
I asked him if he was prepared to make, in the name of his government, a request that my government undertake this task. He answered that he was almost ready; that the opposition to American intervention within his cabinet and among his prominent supporters had much diminished in the last two weeks; Minister Velasquez had despaired of carrying out his own plan; the arrangement at Monte [Page 299]Christi was not working well; it had been proposed in the last cabinet meeting to ask the United States to take charge of that port.
I told him I could not recommend such a proposition to my government; that if we were forced to ask for more ports under the award it would be for Sanchez and Samana, as well as Monte Christi; that I appreciated how great were the political difficulties he was struggling against—difficulties which arose from the deeply grounded prejudice against any sort of American intervention existing among some of his supporters—but that it was for him and not me to say if he had succeeded in removing that prejudice, or if the time had come for him to act in spite of it.
He then asked me to make a written proposition, stating the proportion or amount that I would recommend to be allowed for administrative expenses of the Dominican Government. I begged him to excuse me from doing so, and suggested that the first step had better be a proposition from the Dominican Government, embodying the principle of American collection on a basis that seemed to him just and practicable. He agreed, and said that his own idea was 40 per cent for the creditors and 60 per cent to the Dominican Government.
I expressed some doubts as to whether my government could reach an arrangement with the creditors if limited to such a sum, but agreed to submit it as a tentative proposition as soon as his doubts as to the attitude of his anti-American supporters should be cleared up. Thereupon he asked me to talk with Joubert and Velasquez, with a view to emphasizing the impression already made by the former on the latter’s mind. The President said that if Velasquez could be brought to agree, Vasquez and Caceres would follow. Joubert had already half convinced him that the American Government had no selfish or ulterior views in this matter, and an interview with me would tend to convince him further that an American intervention in the custom-houses would be conducted in a manner that would offend Dominican pride as little as possible and not destroy the prerogatives of the office of minister of finance.
Accordingly, in the last three days, I have had several interviews with the President, Joubert, Velasquez, and Sanchez, and this morning I felt justified in sending you the telegram which I hereby confirm:
Santo Domingo, January 2, 1905.
Dominican President disposed to request United States take charge of collections all customs on the following conditions: Distribute 40 per cent annual receipts among all creditors—remaining 60 to the Dominican Government.
In the course of these interviews I have been obliged to reject several suggestions which seemed to be inadmissible. The first was that I should commit myself personally in favor of the proposed division of the revenues—40 per cent and 60 per cent. I remain free to suggest, either personally or officially, if I should be so instructed, either a different percentage or minimum sums for creditors and government, respectively, with a percentage division of the excess.
The second suggestion was that an assurance be given that Mr. Abbott would not be placed in charge. I immediately inquired if the Dominican Government had any ground of complaint as to Mr. Abbott’s administration of Puerto Plata. They answered in the negative, only saying that some officials found it difficult to get along with [Page 300]him. The suggestion was promptly withdrawn. Apart from other considerations which led me to assume a firm position on this point was the fact that I deemed it wise to take the first opportunity of impressing upon them that we would not take the responsibility involved unless given a free hand to back up our representatives in enforcing a rigidly impartial administration of the custom-houses.
The third suggestion came from Minister Velasquez alone. For the purpose of “saving face” and soothing patriotic pride, he insists upon a joint control of each custom-house by representatives of the two governments, but he has not yet made his plan intelligible to me. In fact it is still shadowy in his own mind. I told him we certainly could not accept a responsibility unless we were given a real and effective control of the collections, although personally I was not only willing but anxious to leave the Dominican Government with the maximum of administrative freedom consistent with this essential prerequisite. He asked me to consider carefully a draft of a plan which he will prepare and submit day after to-morrow. I fear I shall have serious trouble with him on this point, but by consenting to the sending of my telegram to you this morning he has committed himself to the principle of American intervention, and the President feels sure he can hold him in line.
Caceres has been sent for and Joubert will stay over this steamer to aid in holding the Horacista party together in this crisis.
I have, etc.,